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44 Tuff Spot Play Ideas


Tuff Tray ideas for Preschool Learning and Exploring Through Play

We have been searching the internet high and low to find THE best Tuff Tray Inspiration on the web!
From small worlds to sensory play to developing key skills we have it covered, all here in one place!


This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links

BUT - first things first......

What is a Tuff Tray/ Tuff Spot?

A Tuff Tray is actually a builders mixing tray that in recent years has been used in many homes and educational settings to contain various invitations to play and explore. They can be used indoors and outdoors and come in a large variety of colours. They are made of plastic making them really easy to keep nice and clean.

Where can I get a Tuff Tray from?

You can purchase these mixing trays from pretty much all DIY stores and online of course.

Amazon have a HUGE range that can be seen HERE - UK/US
You can also purchase stands to elevate them off the floor - they can be seen HERE - UK/US
Buy them together HERE - UK/US

As I mentioned above, as they have became so popular in childcare settings there is now a wide variety of colours available. This is great as different base colours bring different set ups alive as you will see below. You could also look at purchasing different colours to keep to different themes. For example you may purchase a yellow Tuff Tray and use that one for edible play only, a black tray to use outdoors and so on.

Lets take a look at some of the most inspirational Tuff Tray set ups we have been admiring all over the web:



This is one of my most favourite Tuff Trays. Bring together 4 different small worlds in one tray. 
Notice the train track around the edge too?! Absolute genius! 


1 - Out on the Road - The Ark
The Ark are forever producing top quality tuff tray opportunities for children at their setting.

2 - Rocky Road - Learning an Exploring Through Play
Using sand and painted rocks we created a delightful rocky road small world.

3 - Chalky Road
Using a little chalk you can soon have your very own road layout!



Who doesn't love the magic that fairies bring? This little beauty has lots of hidden treasures to explore!! If you think this is super then be sure to click the link... they have more images of this set up illuminated to add another sensory element to it! I love the colour changing fairy pool!


1 - Fairy Land on real Grass!!
I love they have created the base to this Fairy Garden by using real grass!!

2 - Mushrooms in Wonderland 
Want to create a Fairy themed small world but dont have much time to get things together? That's ok - you don't have to spend weeks growing your own. Simply search the cupboards and see what toys you can bring together to create you set up. 



Use your Tuff Tray to bring alive your child's favourite stories! What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson is a classic and links really well to the Farm topic that most childcare/educational settings cover at some point during the year! Use this tray as a starting point to talk about animals, what noises they make, what they eat, where they sleep etc. If your little ones really enjoy this set up just think how much fun they will have visiting your local farm, getting stuck in and hands on.


1 - The Life Cycle - Tuff Spot Play
Look closely at the Life Cycle of a Butterfly

2 - Jelly Ladybird
Want younger children to get involved? This is perfect for them to explore!

3 - Another wonderful set up for the story What the Ladybird Heard.
I love how they have added a backdrop to their tray and the skirt around the table!

Buy/Read more about the book
What the Ladybird Heard - UK/US



Lovely provocation to explore pouring, filling & the pincer grip - from Lisa Finan McSweeney.
Need a quick and easy set up? You will be blown away by the creativity of your children by placing items like above on a tray! Just watch the delight of imagination unfold!



Don't live by the sea but want to bring a little sea side fun to your settings? Easy Peasy - create a sea themed tuff tray with lots of lovely sea shells to explore - can you hear the waves crashing?
Learn about the creatures of the sea and read some exciting tales - 

Here are some of the best sea themed stories:

Barry the Fish with Fingers - UK/US
Snail and the Whale - UK/US
The Rainbow Fish - UK/US
Commotion in the Ocean - UK/US

With Finding Dory hitting our screens little ones are no doubt going to be captured, this set up will bring their interest alive!!  Here are some other Sea Side set ups we love:


1 - Down at the bottom of the sea
We love how they have used the fish numbers fixed on to a drape to expand on the Tuff Tray space. The tin foil looks pretty effective too!

2 - Rock Pool
We all know how much children love to play in water and with little preparation time this is bound to be a winner for everyone!

3 - Oh I do like to be beside the sea side....
Don't have room for a sand table to be a permanent fixture in your play space? 
Not a problem! Utilise your Tuff Spot!!


6 - Science Tuff Trays - Magnets

Why not also look at adding different objects and materials so children can discover a little more about how magnets work. 


1 - Exploring Gravity. - Adventures of Adam
How simple is this idea? 
It works so well and is such a great hands on visual activity! We love how Adam played with this Tuff Tray using the balls!

2 - Exploring Reflections - The Imagination Tree
Lots of exploring on this Tuff Tray and the mirror adds an additional twist. 


Just look at all the wonderful detail that has gone in to creating this! I love the trees in the woods!
We love chanting this book as we walk through our local woodland. I know my 3 year old would LOVE to play with this one!! Think I may have a go at creating one along with this theme.

Buy/Read more about the book

We're Going on a Bear Hunt - UK/US


 1 - Explore the textures and sequence the story!
Why not look at setting the children a challenge to collect the materials needed for this tray? They will love the responsibility of having their own little task and as a group will enjoy seeing it all come together!

2 - Another excellent version of the story via a Tuff Tray
Lots of materials to explore in this one, I would love to see the after photos to this once the children have enjoyed playing with it!

3 - A great prop to sequence the story!
This Tuff Tray will help bring the story to life for younger children in particular! 
They have added text from the book to this one too.


8 - Dough  - The Ark
This activity was great for promoting scissor skills along with exploring our sense of smell. The children made herb cakes and each created their own unique smell!


Grab together a selection of crafty bits, along with some colourful playdough and BAM you have a super invitation to create your very own monsters.

Create your very own fun and unique playdough pancakes! - Great to do for pancake day!! You could even look at giving the children the opportunity to make their very own pancakes using the REAL ingredients in the Tuff Tray too. 


9 - Soap
Looking for something to do on a hot Summers day? Grab that Tuff Tray fill it with water and add your babies for a washing day!! Oh and of course don't forget the bubbles!!!


As pictured above, except the imagination tree gives us more excellent ideas on how to extend this idea and also the potential learning to look out for.

2 - Soap and Sponges -
The children enjoyed the process of creating the soap suds and we talked about the fact that when we wash our hands we should cover our whole hands in ‘bubbles’ or ‘soap suds’.

3 - Nursery Rhyme - Tiny Tim
Still one of our favourites!! Who doesn't love bubbles too? This would be a hit in the preschoolers classroom!!


10 - Shaving Foam - Shaving Cream, Paint and Water - The Ark


1 - Spiders Webs 
Perfect for Halloween and the Bug topic! This one is bound to get messy so why not look at taking this one outdoors?

2 -  Shaving Foam and Paint!
Not only did this create some beautiful patterns, it was so much fun cleaning it all away too using the hose pipe!

3 - Fireworks - great for celebrations.
Whether you are celebrating Independance Day, New Years Day or Bonfire Night this set up would be a great addition to the classroom to give children the opportunity to mark make!


11 - Mark Making -
Add a table to open the area up to more children!! Love the idea of mark making on the paper too!!


1 - PVA glue -
Not only is this a great media to mark make in, just imagine the satisfaction when it dries and its time to peel it all off!!!

2 - Painting on Foil/Mirror -
We love painting on foil and think the idea of painting on a large scale with friends is an excellent idea!!

3 - Glitter -
Not everyone is a fan of glitter, but I am yet to meet a child who isn't fascinated by it!


I am so doing this one!! Waterbeads are in the post as we speak!!


13 - Recycling
How about creating a sorting tray? Teaching children about what materials can be recycled and to discuss how recycling helps our planet. 


14 - Dinosaurs
Wowzer!! Two Tuff Trays!!! Love the use of the tire. A simple set up that offers a good space for lots of children to play alongside one another!


Freeze Dinosaurs in blocks of ice and place them on a bed of straw. You could consider adding toy hammers and chizzels to help get the dinosaurs out the eggs. Another idea is using water pistols or syringes with warm water to melt the ice.

Super inventive here! They have used real plants to bring this set up to life!

Lots of sensory elements to explore. I love the green swamp!

There we have it a great collection of Tuff Trays that we have found searching the web! There is so much inspiration and creativity out there! 
Do you enjoy making Tuff Tray set ups in your home/setting? We would love to see what you come up with!! Head on over to our social media channels and come and share your pictures with us!! 
We would love to add some to the end of this post!! 

Tuff Tray ideas for Preschool Learning and Exploring Through Play


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Amy Louise
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1 comment:

  1. These are so incredibly fabulous! Thank you for your hard work of gathering them all in one place.

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